chapter  4
Sibling Caretaking: Providing Emotional Support During Middle Childhood: Brenda K. Bryant
Pages 16

The evidence for this is correlational in nature and can be illustrated in terms of children's expressions of empathic arousal. I have shown (Bryant, 1987) that it is not general, ongoing parental support but rather mothers' apparent expressive support in situations that are specifically stressful to children that is conducive to the development of empathy. Consistent with these data I also found that children from large families who turned to grandparents, and older children (aged 10 as compared to age 7) who turned to pets for intimate talks in response to stress, reported greater empathy with others. These findings suggest that when parents are relatively less available to children, as is thought to be the case in large as compared to small families, and as children age and are viewed as more capable of being self-sufficient, the availability of extended family members for stress buffering appears to be linked to children's greater sensitivity to the emotional needs of others.